Today’s back-to-school day will be one to remember for students all across Hong Kong, as thousands of youngsters in high school and universities boycotted class in support of the ongoing protests.
The school strike followed an unprecedented weekend of violence in Hong Kong, where protesters set a barricade ablaze, police fired live rounds and beat up and arrested passengers inside subway stations and carriages, and train stations around the city were vandalized.
Today’s school strike (Sept. 2) is the latest action in the months-long protests that kicked off in June with opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill. The protests have turned increasingly violent as public anger reaches boiling point with the government’s continuing refusal to meet any of the protesters’ demands, and as police adopt more heavy-handed tactics deter people from turning out on the streets. The youngest known person to have been arrested so far in the protests was 12.
Indeed, many of the protesters right at the frontlines of the street battles now commonplace in Hong Kong are teenagers. Today, many who chose to take part in the strike expressed their support by wearing protest gear such as helmets, face masks and goggles—including a group of students at chief executive Carrie Lam’s alma mater, a Catholic all-girl school. Many students boycotted class to attend a larger sit-in later in the day in the city’s Central district, where those who joined the call for a general city-wide strike were also gathered. Thousands of students also rallied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong later in the afternoon, filling up the main atrium area in a sea of black.
The government has condemned the school strikes, with Matthew Cheung, the city’s no. 2 official, saying that politics should be kept out of the classroom.